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Preseason Week 1 Preview: Cowboys at Raiders

Bryson Treece

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The 2009 NFL season is just around the corner now. We’re four games away from the first regular season game – but that doesn’t mean we don’t still have some football to look at this month. The Titans and Bill got the preseason started and in a pleasing way I might add, but the Dallas Cowboys start this Thursday night against Oakland, in Oakland.

Millions are watching to see what the Cowboys are going to do this season. Not only because Terrell Owens was cut, not only because of how badly they lost to the Eagles in the 2008 regular season finale, and not only because our injury prone team is seeming just that, injury prone – and it’s still before their first preseason game.

Training camp injuries for us are like pads and helmets – don’t step on the field without ’em. That’s how it’s been going since Felix Jones first went down last year, and he wasn’t even the first injury of the year. Terence Newman was the first last year, and he was either first or a damn close second this year too, with Mike Jenkins possibly edging him out on that one. Their injuries aren’t supposed to be serious, but our DB core will be missing both of its starting corners for this weeks game and why shouldn’t they sit out? After last year, I don’t think there is a man in this organization that doesn’t think long and hard about playing a hurt guy.

But there’s still so much more to it – the first preseason game – so I’ve got my fellow fans here to help me break it all down for you, one unit at a time. First up?


Defense

Finally the time has come for the 2009-10 NFL season to begin for the Dallas Cowboys. Thursday night in Oakland the Cowboys will have their first of four PreSeason games.

This is the most meaningless game of the four simply because the starters will only play the first two series, from then on we will get the largest look at the rest of the team.

Wade Phillips starts his campaign as the Defensive Coordinator and we can expect to see a fairly extensive blitz package. So far in training camp Wade has blitzed the Cowboys Offense with every opportunity. The defensive question marks coming into the season are the same things we saw the ‘Boys struggle with last year.

  • Interior Run Defense
  • Secondary
  • Ability to Force Turnovers


While this is a meaningless game, here are a few things to keep a watchful eye on.

  • The play of the Defensive line (Are they able to hold up at the point of attack?)
  • The play of Junior Siavii (Can he play well enough to spell J Ratt?)
  • T New and Mike Jenkins will not play so keep an eye on Scandrick and the rest
  • The Rookie Linebackers (Can the defense still function at a high level with them in the game?)
  • With all the blitzing going on have the Cowboys upgraded their depth at the Safety positions?


The Oakland Raiders, like the Cowboys, have a wealth of talent in the backfield, so they should allow the Coaching staff to get a good look at the defensive front.

The Raiders also have a ton of speed in their receivers, add that to the blitz equation and we should be able to get a decent idea on the strength – or lack there of – in the secondary. Here is my list of players to keep an eye on.

  • Michael Hamlin (This guy has been around the ball in every practice but can he do it in a game?)
  • Mike Mickens (Missed the OTA’s and has been struggling so far in camp. His time with the Cowboys may depend on his performance in this game.)
  • Bobby Carpenter (Once again having a very solid Training Camp, but can he finally carry that over into an actual game?)
  • Courtney Brown and Alan Ball (Can they impress enough to impede the progress of the rookies? Or will they struggle and open the door for Mickens?)


I really hate the preseason! Forces me to look solely at the moving parts instead of the sum of those parts! Enjoy the game!

Defensive analysis provided by Bags030404



Offense

Whats the Scoop?

The Dallas Cowboys will head to Oakland for a preseason battle. The Cowboys offense will come showing a little bit of a new flare. The implementation of new formations and personnel will make the Cowboys a bit of a different team, but surely still one of the most talented teams in the league.


What to expect?

Expect… Tony Romo to get a few good series’ in. He will finally get the opportunity to display his offseason work that has been heavily criticized. Directly connected to the progression and development of Tony Romo will be this years receiver corp. A young group that will feature Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton, with Sam Hurd and Miles Austin providing solid talent and depth. You should expect to see more of Hurd and Austin thAn anything else.

The most important thing that you should expect is a lot of risky play calling that will take advantage of the exhibition game. Expect Jason Garrett to experiment with his running backs in two back sets and also moving them into receiver slots. This game will provide the Cowboys a lot of perspective as to what will work and what won’t. Keep an eye on the possibility of the Razorback (Wildcat) formation.


What to look for?

First team offense:

Once again look for consistency in Tony Romo and the First team offense. This is crucial to understanding where the Cowboys will land this season. Look for timing, pass release, and snaps from center. Your eyes should be peeled for limited penalties from the O-line and maximum protection. From the tight ends you want to see that both Witten and Bennett are involved in the game together, look for multiple tight end formations or formations that have tight ends spread out or in the fullback position.

The possibility of new formation alignment is the most intriguing. With so many versatile players you’ll see everyone lined up everywhere. Felix Jones can play receiver, Barber can play fullback, Bennett and Witten can play receiver or fullback, and Crayton and Austin can move into the slot to perform, as well as Hurd playing in the #2 slot. Stanback and Crayton can play Razorback quarterback, and Felix Jones will see a lot of different situations.

Second and Third team offense:

Not too much that is going to matter a whole lot. Kitna will get some play but he’s a proven veteran. Expect and anticipate a strong showing from McGee. He’s been slow so far in camp, having trouble and getting shaken in the pocket. He’ll need to find his confidence and a preseason game can really aid that.

The most important battle to keep an eye on will be receiver. The Cowboys are expected to only keep 5 and 4 spots are locked up. Stanback has come on strong but Manuel Johnson, Holley-wood, and Kevin Ogletree have all impressed a bit in camp. As they’ll all get the second half to show what they can do, expect someone to begin to break away.


The result?

A lot will be tested and proven in this game against Oakland. Hopefully our First team will get some chemistry going and it’ll provide some calmness to settle over a very criticized unit. A lot of young talent sits in our system and we’ll get to see some of it Thursday night!

Offensive analysis provided by Bryan Martin


Special Teams

During this year’s draft, Special Team’s was a focus, drafting 9 players out of 12 with their ability to contribute to this side of the ball in mind. Granted, there may be a future in the starting line up for many of these players, but this year their roster spot will likely be earned flying down the field on kick off and punt coverage and throwing blocks where needed on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Whereas on Offense and Defense, where we will likely only see the starters for the first few series, throughout the game when the Special Team’s take the field, what you see in Preseason will be very close to what you get in the Regular season, when it comes to the skill positions: Mat McBriar will be the punter, Nick Folk, will likely be handling the extra points and Field Goals and handling the kick off duties will likely be the freak of nature phenomenon David Buehler (pronounced Beeler, for those not already in the know). Outside of those positions, though, are the plethora of bubble-boy’s.

The Special Teams portion of Thursday night’s game will grant us the truest picture of how we did in the Draft, since it’s too early to expect these rookies to perform within a new defense and offense at the top of their potential. For instance, while many people have thought that some of these rookies are slower than their combine’s/pro day’s suggested, the veterans have contended that their problem is not physical speed, but mental speed (e.g. their reaction time). The mental side of offense and defense comes with experience. On Special Team’s, though, their physical speed should be evident.


What to look for:

  • Touchbacks. Can Buehler routinely kick it into the endzone in game situations?
  • How will coverage perform, particularly with the recent change in the rules, which prevents the kick return team from forming a wedge of 3 or more players?
  • Has Matt McBriar returned to form after suffering a season ending injury last year to his kicking foot?
  • Is Nick Folk still clutch?
  • Lastly, and most importantly in my mind, what rookie and/or perennial benchwarmer embraces Special Team’s ala Keith Davis and emerges as the new leader. Personally, with as many unit’s as he will likely be featured on, I’d like to see Buehler assume this role, though it may be too soon in his career.

Special teams analysis provided by Jonathan

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Dallas Cowboys

Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

Sean Martin

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Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

After hiring Paul Alexander to fill their vacant OL coaching position, the Dallas Cowboys are continuing to retool their offensive staff below Scott Linehan. Sanjay Lal has been hired to coach the Cowboys’ wide receivers, replacing Derek Dooley.

Lal has experience as a WR coach with four different teams, dating back to 2009 with the Oakland Raiders. He was promoted up to this position after serving as the Raiders’ quality control coach from 2007-08.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys have reached an agreement with Sanjay Lal to become the team’s WR coach. Lal was with Indianapolis last season and replaces Derek Dooley on the staff.

Most recently, Sanjay Lal coached the receivers for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He has also been with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

In this interview with the Colts, Lal mentions being very detail-oriented with a focus on the technical aspects of playing receiver.

Lal beats out former Cowboys WR Miles Austin for this position, earning the right to lead a room of receivers in desperate need of fresh talent. In an offseason that’s been about finding fresh ideas with the coaching staff so far though, the Cowboys have a new voice on offense.

Tell us what you think about “Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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